Are Essential Oils Zero Waste?

are essential oils zero waste


A question that has been on my mind since I started learning about the zero waste lifestyle is:

“Are essential oils zero waste?”

Many zero waste DIY recipes call for a few drops of varying essential oils, and many zero wasters swear by the healing properties of these potent oils. However, there’s usually no mention of the intensive, wasteful production of essential oils. It is my understanding that a very small amount of essential oil requires many, many pounds of plants.  It’s also important to take into consideration the large amounts of land, fossil fuels, irrigation, fertilizers, and other energy requirements to create these essential oils.

Then I thought, well zero waste is mostly about your personal landfill trash; it’s not about the wasteful production of products/goods that you use per se. Zero Waste is really more concerned with the packaging of goods rather than the production. But I don’t believe the plastic caps and plastic inserts for these little bottles are recyclable, right? So no, essential oils are not zero waste.

I decided to ask some of my fellow zero wasters about essential oil use in our Facebook community to help clarify my understanding, and what a variety of responses I received to my question!

What to Know!

What I have basically learned is that using essential oils is a personal choice just as the following the zero waste lifestyle is a personal journey.

  • Some zero waste enthusiasts find that the benefits of using essential oils outweighs the negative aspects of their production. Using natural oils rather than chemicals or other conventional alternatives for household projects is important to them and it’s just one of those zero waste exceptions (we’ve all got some!).
  • I’ve also learned that essential oils are not absolutely necessary. You can still easily follow an organic, zero waste lifestyle without them. You don’t have to include them in your DIY recipes or use them in your home at all.
  • Additionally, there are alternatives to essential oil use that can be just as beneficial. Hydrosols, the byproduct of essential oils, are basically less concentrated forms of essential oils. Using these hydrosols could be a more sustainable choice. Also, what a cool way to reduce waste by using what would be considered waste from essential oils! Another option is making your own infusions which can be great for DIY projects.

Also very important, if you do choose to use essential oils in your home:

  • Do thorough research when choosing essential oils to find sustainably produced oils. This often means not purchasing essential oils from one large supplier but rather learning more about where your oils were produced and how. It might mean buying fewer oils and from small batch suppliers.
  • Use oils sparingly. Since it really is a very intensive production process, use them in moderation and consider how precious they really are.
  • Don’t use essential oils from threatened plant species, caused by the ever increasing essential oil market. For example, some trees like sandalwood and rosewood are slow growing plants. By purchasing these oils, you contribute to deforestation of these specific plants, since our demand is higher than their production/growth rate.

What is your personal preference when it comes to essential oil use and following a zero waste lifestyle? 🙂 

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are essential oils zero waste

4 thoughts on “Are Essential Oils Zero Waste?

  1. I saw a really interesting doco about sandalwood the other day on NITV. Some of the Australian sandalwood is sustainably harvested by indigenous collectors and there’s an Indian sandalwood plantation in Australia coming into production. I had no idea we (Australia) even had Native sandalwood!

  2. this is new on my radar so thanks for bringing it to the foreground on the production of essential oils. I didn’t that sandalwood and rosewood consumption would contribute to deforestation of these trees. I need to do more reading on the ones i use the most and who produced them. thanks.

  3. Thank you for writing about this! I feel sometimes zerowasters fuzz over some of the important details about the products they use. I use essential oils all the time and most of what I have now I received at a huge discount from a family member working at a company that sold them. However switching to zero waste, I am researching everything I can about products before making a purchase. I am starting to order oils from Mountain Rose Herbs now because they have very strick policies on zero waste in their company. And they have very high quality oils so I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for the most sustainable essential oils!

    1. Yes! That’s great that you’ve done the research and found a company that you can trust and support to sell a high quality sustainable product! Ill be sure to check out Mountain Rose Herbs

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